If you an look past the gory gunplay, there’s a thinking man’s shooter waiting to be discovered underneath
Being the Don of a New York mafia crime family is a tough job, especially when you’re fighting to control the demonic presence that pre-dates history and has decided to take up residence inside your head. This is the predicament facing Jackie Estacado, protagonist of the Darkness 2.
Unless you own a console, it’s unlikely you’ll have played the first Darkness game, which didn’t receive a PC release. However, a quick recap before you start the campaign is all that’s needed to fill you in. Having used the Darkness to ascend the ranks of the Mafia, Jackie has become the target of a mysterious cult intent on stealing its power.
Luckily, being possessed by a being of pure evil his its advantages – namely the two tentacle-like manifestations of the Darkness that can be used in combat. They can grab and throw scenery to impale enemies or protect you from their bullets, pull your adversaries towards you and perform quick executions that refill your life bar. Throw in dual-wielded pistols into the mix and you’re a veritable supernatural killing machine.
These powers grow as you progress, with each action awarding you Dark Essence that can be used to buy upgrades and new abilities. Our favourite is the Black Hole, which pulls your helpless enemies into a swirling vortex, never to be seen again, but there are plenty of others. Gun Channelling uses the power of the Darkness to provide you with unlimited ammunition for a brief period, as well as letting you see enemies through walls, and Swarm envelops enemies in darkness so you can move into melee range.
It also has its downsides too, as you have to avoid bright light in order to retain your powers. Standing in the beam of a searchlight will blur your vision and disorient you, leaving you vulnerable. The Darkness simultaneously spurs you on and revels in your mistakes in a delightfully evil tone – it’s voiced by the excellent Mike Patton of Faith No More fame, and his near-sociopathic delivery is pitch perfect for the character.
Unfortunately, the same can’t be said of the Darkling that accompanies you everywhere – the demonic gremlin has a terribly bad cockney accent that will quickly begin to grate on anyone that’s even remotely familiar with London. Combined with some crass humour, it isn’t enough to bring the tone of the game down completely, but we would have preferred the menacing gibberish spouted from the Darklings of the original game.
If it wasn’t already clear, this definitely isn’t a game for children – not only is it filled with dark themes but there are plenty of gory scenes that aren’t diminished by the cell-shaded graphic style. Locations and characters have plenty of detail, but still mimic the appearance of the comics on which the game is based very well, without being too overt in the way other cell-shaded games have been in the past.
We weren’t expecting the Darkness II to be much of a thinking man’s shooter, considering the amount of violence and gore on display in its opening act, but we were refreshingly surprised by the plot twists and devices that make you doubt whether Jackie is really experiencing demonic possession, or is simply insane – the action occasionally pauses for brief interludes in an asylum where the inmates and doctors are the same characters from the other world. Depending on your actions, it’s ambiguous as to which reality is the real one, which leaves you guessing right up until the game’s conclusion.
There’s a little extra replay value from the Vendettas multiplayer co-op mode, but ultimately the Darkness II is a story-based shooter that won’t take very long to finish, but it will keep you guessing until the end. The plot does falter slightly at its conclusion, but it’s still a great ride to the finish.